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Equality

Seafarers included in unions' campaign to prevent sexual harassment of cross-border workers

11 March 2022

A motion on preventing sexual harassment of seafarers and other cross-border workers, amended by Nautilus, was supported unanimously at the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) Women's Conference 2022.

Speaking to the motion, Nautilus strategic organiser Rachel Lynch told delegates about the Union's contribution of an amendment to include seafarers in the Unison motion: 'We felt it was important to amend this motion to include seafarers and other cross-border workers as it can be difficult for these workers to access immediate assistance. This can be due to operating in jurisdictions they are not familiar with, or where laws and general beliefs of society are very different to those we are used to in our home countries,' she said.

Female seafarers represent 1.2% of the global seafarer workforce, and when working on a cargo ship it is likely that there will only be one woman onboard in a team of 20-30 men, said Ms Lynch. On cruiseships and superyachts, more women are employed but are often outranked by their senior male colleagues.

If we are to encourage more women to work in jobs that have traditionally been seen as dominated by men, such as seafaring, we must do more to combat sexual harassment and ensure access to immediate assistance and legal redress Nautilus strategic organiser Rachel Lynch

'As the international union for seafarers, we find our members turn to us in times of need and despair for support and guidance when overseas. In addition to the trauma they have suffered, they have the added stress of being away from home, away from family and friends. They face language barriers and difficulties accessing the appropriate support.

'Conference, if we are to encourage more women to work in jobs that have traditionally been seen as dominated by men, such as seafaring, we must do more to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure access to immediate assistance and legal redress is available to all, wherever in the world our members are working.'

Ms Lynch commented that employers are also often based overseas, 'with the world of shipping being known to make frequent use of shell companies and registrations in countries such as Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands'. She said while 'some reputable employers do provide support; others do not want to deal with claims of abuse. Often a victim's employment can be terminated for "other reasons".'


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